Advice from Expert Curator, Robin Good, on How to…Curate


Robin Good has long been my go-to guru for inspiration on how and what to curate.  In this short interview by Cendrine Marrouat, social media blogger, curator, and founder of Social Media Slant, I got some useful direction for something I have been practicing for several years now. Perhaps it will be of value to you as well.

Good notes from the start that he never consciously decided to become a content curator. He hints at how curation chose him.  I think that Good hit the ground running with curation because he realized early on that an inventory of his likes was also an inventory of this skills. His earliest success was in creating a taxonomy poster in high school. Later he was an FM radio personality, a private-party DJ, a newsletter editor and eventually a curator of  breaking news feeds.  Good always seemed to know how these strengths aligned with those of curation in general even though he may not have called it that as a young man.

Good advises a form of enlightened self-interest in curating.  In other words by curating spaces that help him find what he wants, he also does the same for those with similar interests. I think that this is also the key to persistence as a curator.  If you are passionately curious about a question, then you can add value almost automatically.  For example, summarizing a blog post or research paper helps you understand both how and why a piece is worthy and unworthy.  That gives you greater depth.  If you can add critique and analysis to the curation, you make the article more and more your own.  And if you let others peak over your shoulder and even critique and analyze what you have curated, then so much the better for all to share in the rising intellectual tide that anyone can surf

Good also argues that curation is a necessity in a target rich environment. Without the skills he has evolved over the years,  he argues that he could not effectively find what he needs to do his job. Curation is central to efficient and effective filtering the info-muck that the Internet often seems.

Of course, curation makes you smarter and more nuanced because you have gone through the full cycle of seeking, making sense of, and sharing that information.  Curation is the full monty.

Good is not nearly so helpful when he is asked for tips on how to do ‘great curation’. His advice seems at first to be the same advice that the baseball player Willie Keeler gave, “Keep your eye clear, and hit ’em where they ain’t.” Yes…and how does one hit ’em where they ain’t?  Go deep–explore–be open to surprise—be disciplined–keep your filters on and your curation GPS flexible, but not too flexible. Perhaps the better advice would be to follow Robin Good’s work on Scoop.It  and Zeef so he can show you how to hit ’em where they ain’t.

To his credit, Good later in the interview does suggest that you follow others down their curated rabbit holes. He suggest that you start with these:

Maria Popova – Curiosity and culture

Robert Scoble –Technology and startups

Peter Bogaards – Information Design

Stephen Downes — How to Curate

While you are examining the curatorial work of others, he advises that you “shine the lights on other people’s work, tools, ideas and let others discover what may have never come across their typical path.”  I like this quote because it is a useful reminder that while curation starts with personal curiosity and knowledge management, it only become curation when we consider a larger audience.  Without the “making sense” and “sharing” it is probably more noise in a world gone Babel.  Curation is all about tuning into the best signal even if all you have is a crystal radio set and then sharing that pure signal with others.

Thanks so much to Cendrine Marrouat for asking the questions and to Robin Good for broadcasting his bright curatorial light.

Lighthouse on treacherous ground

3 thoughts on “Advice from Expert Curator, Robin Good, on How to…Curate

  1. Thanks for this! I’m trying to be a better content curator at work (sharing resources related to teaching and learning with the faculty), and your suggestion that we curate _spaces_, not just _things_, is definitely something I’ll be chewing on. (Part of my problem is that, right now, it’s a one-way conversation – I try to share lists of useful things and haven’t been successful yet at turning them into conversation starters.)

    1. I sympathize with the ‘one-way conversation’ although you are really helping to make this a reciprocal one. I suppose one consolation (and you have to actively look for these consolations) is that you are satisfying your own desire to seek answers. At some point that ceases to be enough and we want to build bridges and make bonds across the gaps. That’s when I begin to do some positive whining and then get back to it. Giving up on our own voices is not an option. I will be heading to your blog to reach back across the gap. Thanks for attending to mine.

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